Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau details how Obi Toppin can earn more playing time

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With just moments left in the contest against Toronto on Friday evening, New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau pulled Obi Toppin from the game.

The second-year forward had a career night up north, recording 19 points and 10 rebounds. He was undoubtedly the team’s best player during the game, justifying his presence in the final moments.

Some might say it was unreasonable that Toppin wasn’t involved in the final play, which ended up being a three-point shot from RJ Barrett that careened off the rim.



After the game, Thibodeau details how Toppin could enjoy more playing time in the future, after spending 24 minutes on the floor against the Raptors, a high this season, excluding the double-overtime win against the Boston Celtics to open the year.

“If he plays well, he plays more, it’s that simple. You have to earn what you get.”

Clearly, Toppin is earning more action on the floor, posting back-to-back double-digit point games with 12 combined rebounds and just two turnovers.

The Dayton product has become electrifying in transition, especially with fellow draft mate Immanuel Quickley leading the offense down the court. His abilities to find open lanes and drive the baseline have become a focal point for the Knicks on offense, but his shooting still remains a liability, connecting on just 19.6% from three-point range this season.

However, that’s not for lack of practice, as Obi has been extremely proactive with his work off the court.

“I see that work every day, I see how he approaches it. He’s a great worker, great kid. I’m not surprised that he’s improving,” Thibs said.
The reality for Toppin is simple, his 15.6 minutes per night on average are a result of Julius Randle hosting the top power forward slot. Thibodeau has been trying to get Randle and Toppin on the floor at the same time to maximize their skill sets, which are vastly different, especially in transition and isolation.
While Thibodeau clearly didn’t roll with Toppin in the final moments, the second-year player responded positively, indicating that his head coach knows all.

“Coach Thibs is a great coach. He’s been doing this for a very long time. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a lot more experienced and he knows a lot more,” Toppin shared.

Nonetheless, coming off what are the best games of his career, Thibs has no choice but to feature him in a more prominent role moving forward, especially if the Knicks want to be a more fast pace team relying on energy and effort rather than Randle posting up in isolation and trying to carry the load.